08 July, 2008

The Tinkers, Junk Trucks of Chicago



A Chicago junk truck
Photo by kristen60647

Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor.
Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief...

I've mentioned the tinkers a couple of times in my posts without really elaborating on them, but they serve such a vital service to the Chicagoland area that they deserve a post all their own.

People usually refer to them as "the junk trucks." When I lived in Uptown Chicago, we'd see the ancient pickup trucks--loaded with an assortment of old air conditioners, beat-up shopping carts, and miscellaneous scrap metal--parked all up and down Lawrence and Broadway at night. Neighbors would often complain about them, because, let's face it, they're pretty much an eyesore. But what would we do without them?

Every day will find these trucks prowling up and down the alleys of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, looking for scrap metal and other valuables to sell to recycling centers. I started calling them "tinkers" as a nod to the metalsmiths of old who traveled the countryside, fixing and selling metal goods, and the Irish traveling people I encountered on my first trip to Ireland in '98, who were often referred to as tinkers. I don't know of anyone else who actually calls these junk truck drivers "tinkers" except me.

Like many communities, ours charges a special pick-up fee for large-item pickups--which includes furniture, appliances, etc. But it never really comes down to that. Leave anything of value in the alley, and chances are a junk truck will stop and haul your item away. We had so much crap left behind by the previous owners, that we've come to rely on the tinkers to help us out. They've hauled away old metal tables, broken aluminum windows, a washer/dryer set, and miscellaneous, unidentifiable bits of scrap metal. The city would have charged us hundreds of dollars for these pickups. The quickest pickup I witnessed was five minutes. Nothing has sat in the alley for more than two days. Why oh why would I ever complain if one of my junk-collecting neighbors wanted to park his crappy-looking truck in front of his own house? They've saved me money time and time again, and in this economy, every bit helps.

So "God bless the tinkers," I always say. What would we do without them?

6 comments:

denise said...

I totally agree! We're more than happy to leave things out for them and my husband usually helps them load the stuff up, which they've always seemed to appreciate. We've always had them around but have noticed a huge increase in the number of "scrappers" (as we call them) trolling our neighborhood. A sign of the economy perhaps?

Jenni said...

TGFT! They have saved us hundreds in carting off debris.

Green Fairy said...

I just saw a clip on CNN about recycle theft in San Francisco; with the cost of paper, aluminum, etc., on the rise, folks have been stealing items right out of recycle bins. Apparently, that's an offense there.

iloveupstate.com said...

these people are awesome, they are the number one recyclers

Andy said...

One man's trash...

Hallie&Joe said...

Amazing! And so much better because they are selling and recycling rather than dumping in a landfill. I wish we had em!